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HST271

Week 12: Exploration Packet 2

 This week’s reading was especially interesting to me since I am planning on majoring in International Relations. So being able to analyze Chinese history through that lens in addition to the usual historical perspective was quite enjoyable! With this in mind, it was interesting to read the toasts that Nixon and Zhou Enlai gave at the banquet on February 25th, 1972. Specifically, the continuous and (ostensibly) subtle references that the two kept making to their ideologies. For example, Nixon mentioning that American journalists and press have the “right to speak for themselves and that no one in government can speak for them”, as well as his reference to “…the determination of the Chinese people to retain their independence throughout their long history.” Zhou also made similar (if slightly more subtle) remakes, mentioning the fact that China was “deeply convinced that the strength of the people is powerful” and his belief that “the general trend of the world is definitely towards light and not darkness”, a nod to the Marxist view that history will eventually lead to the greatest “light” of all: an entirely classless society.

This also brought to mind liberalism in international relations (which, by the way, is not the same as political liberalism), which adheres to a progressive view of history. This is, in essence, the idea that human society is projected to go ever upwards and that humanity can only become better with each passing century. While I highly doubt that Zhou held to a liberal view of international relations, I still find it to be another fascinating parallel between the Chinese and the Americans. This is mainly because of Henry Kissinger’s view of international relations heavily favored realism, which oftentimes opposes liberalism. For example, a realist view of history would be cyclical rather than progressive, meaning that history is bound to repeat itself forever and that, partly due to this, the international system is an eternal struggle for stability and power. So again, the ideological spilt between the two nations is on display. As I mentioned, I do not think that this was the message Zhou intended to get across with that line, but it still showcases just how different the countries (and leaders in charge of the countries) were, even unintentionally. Although Nixon and Mao put on quite the show of pretending that their friendly talks had overcome any differences that the two nations might have had, it will be interesting to see how that relationship will play out in the coming weeks of this class.

Works Cited

Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai, “Toasts at a Banquet Honoring the Premier“, February 25, 1972

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HST271

Show and Tell Project 4: Born Red Response Paper

The first thing I noticed about the Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution reading was how hard the author’s life was from the very start. Gao Yuan was born in the village of  “Yizhen” (in the preface Gao mentions that most village names he mentioned have been altered) in the year 1952. Gao Yuan lived there with his mother, father, grandfather, and five siblings, of which he was the second oldest. As he was growing up, China entered the period of its Great Leap Forward. According to Gao, the reaction of the people at first was excitement. Finally, they said, China would become a truly Communist society. Gao’s family even donated their pots and metal to the steel furnace that the town handcrafted. However, as we learned, the Great Leap Forward ended up being a failure, causing the horrific suffering and death of millions of Chinese people. From the years 1960 to 1962, Gao writes that he remembers eating ground-up corn cobs, tree bark, and even bugs just to have something in his belly. The entire village was in the same situation as Gao and his family, so much so that many were selling their extremely valuable heirlooms for mere pennies. Gao’s grandfather was able to buy a Ming Dynasty-era incense burner for only 50 fen, the same price as one persimmon.

Gao’s recollections of his village and family during this time reminded me of what we learned that China as a whole was experiencing. Both Yizhen and China were very optimistic and excited for the Great Leap Forward to happen. Both were willing to make sacrifices for the cause, Gao and his family in the form of their metal donations and China in the form of their homemade backyard furnaces. However, both parties were met with bitter disappointment and terrible consequences via extreme food shortages and poverty. It is so awful that all of those innocent people had to experience those terrible conditions when their only ‘crime’ (so to speak) was being hopeful and working towards what they viewed to be a better future.

Unfortunately, that better future was far from appearing, even after the end of the Great Leap Forward. Gao continues his story, recounting how he was enrolled in a middle school soon after the close of the Great Leap Forward (around 1964-1965). Gao remembers the classmates he met and the teachers he befriended, particularly a teacher named Li. For a while, it seemed that Gao was relatively happy and comfortable in his situation. However, the paranoia and terror of the Cultural Revolution soon began to leach into his school. When essays were published in several newspapers criticizing the Communist government, Gao and his classmates were tasked with creating large posters denouncing the three authors (also known as the Three Family Village) and those associated with them. Slogans that they wrote included “Down with the Three Family Village!”, “Smash the black gang!”, “Down with the antisocialist cabal!”, and “Carry the revolution through to the end!” They ended up spending multiple days on this project, covering their entire campus in their work. Another incident that occurred not long after involved a picture of Chairman Mao, who one student claimed was mocking him as it depicted him with only one ear. This caused other students to see anti-Communist messages everywhere, with some saying that they found a snake painted onto a portrait of Lenin and others sure that a picture of Mao had a sword hanging over his head. Both of these things turned out to be false, with the former being nothing but a shadow and the latter revealing itself to be a painted beam. However, the suspicious attitudes of the teachers and students at Gao’s school were basically the mood of the whole nation.

Reading this part of the book really helped to put the reading that I did for my blog post into perspective. Although it still boggles my mind that literal school children could commit the horrible acts that they did, it was good to read the context for how they got to the point they did. In my mind, I had this image of normal children immediately becoming violent and dangerous almost overnight, whereas the reality was that the situation had a much slower build up. In fact, it seems that this build up was mainly orchestrated by the teachers at the school. This was especially interesting to me, as I had been very curious as to where the students had been getting the motivation and information to do the things they did. However, I am not at all trying to say that what happened to the teachers was somehow deserved. The Cultural Revolution had a horrible impact on all those involved, regardless of their age, rank, or social status. The fear and terror that permeated Chinese society during this time was crippling to the entire society and victimized millions upon millions of terrified, innocent people.

Works Cited

Gao, Yuan. Born Red : A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987

Notes: I read from chapter 1 to chapter 11

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HST271

Week 11: Exploration Packet 3

The first thing that I noticed as I was reading through chapter 5 of the book Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution was just how young Gao Yuan (the author) and his peers were when the events in the book were taking place. In the section of the book that I read, Gao Yuan recounts the acts of violence that he and his classmates committed against their teachers. Suspecting that they were bourgeois, students took on the roles of “prosecutor, judge, and police” against their teachers. However, according to Gao Yuan, “No defense was allowed”, and once the students deemed their superiors to be guilty in some way, punishment immediately followed. Techniques for ‘correction’ included forcing the teachers to wear humiliating slogan boards, cut off their hair, or, worst of all, make them get into the “jet-plane position”. This, according to Gao Yuan, was when “Two people would stand on each side of the accused, push him to his knees, pull his head back by the hair, and hold his arms out in back like airplane wings. We tried it on each other and found it caused great strain on the back and neck.” To justify all of the terrible things that they were doing, the students claimed that the Americans and Nationalists committed much greater atrocities against the Communists during the war. Therefore, in their minds, the punishment that they were giving their teachers was much less severe than what had been done during the war.

As previously mentioned, what shocked me most about this reading was just how young the students doing these terrible things really were. Although I knew that Gao Yuan was a teenager while these events were taking place, I assumed that he was in late high school. However, a quick Google search revealed that he was actually in middle school during this time. Within the book, Gao Yuan also mentioned that “One group of first-graders made a cap of sorghum stalks as high as a two-story building for their homeroom teacher; they had to support it with long poles as they marched him around.” The torment that the teachers were experiencing became so bad that one of them actually committed suicide. It is mind-boggling to me that children of such a young age would do such horrible things to their teachers. Even if the ages that children entered middle school and first grade were different during that time, I cannot imagine that the students at Gao Yuan’s school were that old. It brought to mind the closing lines from Diary of a Madman, where the main character proclaims that the uncorrupted children will the saviors of society. It seems that in the case of the Cultural Revolution, it was the corrupted children that brought about the downfall of society.

Works Cited

Gao, Yuan. Born Red : A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987

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HST271

Week 10: Exploration Packet 2

One thing that interested in about the reading this week was just how strained Chinese-Soviet relations were. I had never thought to view Chinese-Soviet relations in this tenuous way. I had wrongly assumed that since both countries self-identified as communist, they would both mostly get along. However, as perfectly illustrated here, that is most definitely not always the case! It has been interesting to track the growth and decline of Chinese-Soviet relations throughout our readings, from the U.S.S.R.’s support of the fledgling Chinese communist party, to the questionable support the CCP received from the Soviets during the civil war and WWII, to the straining of their relationship during this time. Although the two countries both labeled themselves as being communist nations, it is obvious that they were traveling on two different paths.

In my opinion, the main catalyst for their divergence came from the different views that the Soviets and the CCP had on peace. For the Soviet government, peaceful international relations were swiftly becoming a priority. After Stalin’s reign of terror left Russia in tatters, the new First Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, reframed the Russian strategy for international engagement around peace and cooperation. For example, the U.S.S.R. requested to be allowed into NATO, distanced itself from the Algerian National Liberation Front, and encouraged the signing of a Soviet-American friendship treaty. Perhaps the most extreme example of the new Soviet image came in the form of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, in which he conceded the fatal errors of Stalin and his regime.  Thus, the Soviet’s efforts to “De-Stalinize” themselves were beginning to make a real difference both at home and abroad.

China, on the other hand, was still a new-created communist country. While Russia had been established for a while and was evolving their foreign policy to include more cooperative approaches, Mao and his government were still firmly entrenched in the Marxist ideal of revolution. Within Marxist ideology, societal power shifts are constantly taking place and will continue to do so until the final revolution, in which the proletariat will overthrow the bourgeois and equal distribution of the means of production will finally be achieved. Therefore, until this occurred, the proletariat needed to purge all unequal societal influences, or so the CCP believed. Thus, the U.S.S.R.’s shift away from this strictly Marxist model into one that encouraged peaceful cooperation with capitalist countries was very alarming to the newly minted communist nation. Although this is definitely not the whole reason that the two states’ relationship crumbled, I still think these two different approaches to peace played a large role.

Works Cited

Shen, Zhihua, and Yafeng Xia. Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959 : A New History. The Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.

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HST271

Week 9: World War II

In response to Dr. D’Haeseleer’s question this week about our readings (“How does your perspective on the War change when you see the long-term perspective from China and then realize that it was followed immediately by a civil war?”), I think my perspective on World War II has changed quite a lot after this week! Learning about how complex the situation in China was before, during, and after World War II made me realize that that yes, WWII was actually a global war. This may seem like an obvious realization (after all, it is literally in the name), but I tend to find myself hyper-focusing on the American and European perspectives during the War. Although being well educated on these aspects of WWII is very important, it is also equally important to learn about other parts of the world during the War and what was happening in their country at the time. Oftentimes, this information explains current world events and situations, such as the power of the CCP in China today.

One part of the reading that I found to be quite interesting was the various tactics that the communists used to fight against the Japanese. I was very interested to find out how they fought against the Japanese forces, as they were already spread so thin from the civil war that was taking place. It turns out that some of their main tactics for combat was guerilla warfare. For example, one way that the communist army would avoid the Japanese forces was through their segment worm trick. This move would involve them starting out with a large unit of men that would drop two men at a time throughout their journey. That way, if they were being tracked then the Japanese would eventually have no more trail to follow since the original unit would be all split up. This was just one of the many techniques that the communists used against the Japanese. Other methods that the Chinese communists to fight the Japanese were outlined by Lin Biao, a general of the communist army, who stated that “What we can do is split the enemy up in smaller groups wherever possible, and destroy them. We can harass them, cut their communication routes so they can get no reinforcements, no food, no supplies of any kind. We have already cut the Chentai railway here in many places.” Ultimately, these methods helped the Chinese clench their victory against the invading forces.

Works Cited

Moïse Edwin E. Modern China: A History Third ed. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2008.

Smedley, Agnes, J. F Horrabin, and Victor Gollancz Ltd. China Fights Back : An American Woman with the Eighth Route Army. Left Book Club Edition. London: V. Gollancz, 1938.

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HST271

Show and Tell Module 3: Delving into Diary of a Madman

When I realized that the time for our module 3 show and tell project was upon us, I immediately knew what topic I wanted to explore more deeply. Ever since I first read Lu Xun’s famous short story, “Diary of a Madman”, I was intrigued by the deeper meaning of the piece. What broader point was Xun trying to make, if any? Was it a commentary on Chinese society? An examination of the human condition? Or simply the horrifying tale of a man sinking deeper and deeper into delusion. With these questions in mind, I began my research to find out the truth.

Before I dive into my findings, however, I will first go into some context about the piece. The author, Lu Xun, was born in the year 1881 in the city of Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province [1]. He almost became a doctor, but instead took up the profession of healing the souls of the populace after seeing a slideshow depicting people idly watching as a person was executed in front of them [2]. Xun believed that his writing could achieve his goal and began to author stories that strove to “dissect the malaise of Chinese humanity in symbolic form and…resurrect the Chinese body from the curse of living death”[3]. From this wish came “Diary of a Madman”. When this story first came out in 1918, it was written in Baihua (or Colloquial Chinese) [4]. This decision to use Baihua was a massive departure from the norm and caused quite a stir, since most Chinese literature was written in Wenyan (or Classical Chinese), which most of the Chinese population was unable to understand [5]. Even before they even picked up his work, Lu Xun wanted the Chinese people to know that his goal with “Diary of a Madman” was to create enormous cultural change. However, the content of his story was even more shocking than his choice of language. “Diary of a Madman” tells the tale of a presumed madman who believes that his entire village is made of cannibals who are planning on eating him.

The first meaning that has been drawn from this odd story comes from James Reeve Pusey’s book Lu Xun and Evolution. In this, he states that “Diary of a Madman” is an examination of human nature and that Xun is pointing out how evil humanity truly is [6]. However, Pusey does not believe that “Diary of a Madman” is painting an irredeemable picture of humanity. He points to a line in the story where the main character states that the reason that the children of the village also eat people is because “their fathers and mothers have taught them to be like that” [7]. Therefore, Pusey proposes that Xun is using “Diary of a Madman” to point out the evil in human nature; however, that that evil is a learned one, not one that a person is born with [8]. Thus, Xun’s emphasis on the innocence of young people provides an avenue for the restoration of humanity: through the children, who are too young to be tainted by humanity’s villainy. This idea is solidified through the last line of the story, which is a simple command to “Save the children”[9].

A different interpretation of Diary of a Madman comes from Lu Xun’s revolution: writing in a time of violence, whose author, Gloria Davis, views Xun’s inclusion of cannibalism in his story as a means to critique the social structure of China [10]. This concept appears in the story when the protagonist comes to the realization that “…I’m someone with four thousand years’ experience of cannibalism behind me”, revealing Xun’s disdainful view of an ancient Chinese society whose structure had oppressed so many [11].  As Davis puts it, “…it [Diary of a Madman] produces a visceral indictment of “the old society’s” anthropophagic appetite, the depth of which is progressively revealed to the protagonist” [12]. Thus, the normalized cannibalism taking place within the protagonist’s village functions as a metaphor for harmful practices normalized through tradition in Chinese society.

Although there were many more theories and interpretations of Lu Xun’s story to explore, these two were the ones that made the most sense to me, especially when combined. At the time when Lu Xun was writing this story, China was in a time of great turmoil. Political unrest within the country was causing rumbling of rebellion and long-held Chinese customs and traditions were being reexamined by the newly emerging, youth-powered Communists [13]. The two theories I have outlined here present a cohesive view of Diary of a Madman as a story that exists as a perfect representation of both this evolution of culture and desire for youth-driven change. Not only had Lu Xun written a masterful, horrifying short story that captured the attention of readers worldwide, he was also able to capture the discontent and disillusionment of an entire generation.


Footnotes

[1] David Wang, “Chinese literature from 1841 to 1937”, in The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Chang, Kang-i Sun & Owen, Stephen (arg.), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2:413–564, 474, 2010, doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521855594.008.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[5] Ibid.

[6] James Reeve Pusey, Lu Xun and Evolution, (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998), retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[7] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[8] James Reeve Pusey, Lu Xun and Evolution, (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998), retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[9] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[10] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[11] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[12] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[13] Chapter 13 Summary.

Bibliography

Chapter 13 summary

Davis, Gloria. Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2013. https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

Lu Xun, and Lyell, William A.. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1990. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Pusey, James Reeve. Lu Xun and Evolution. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. 1998. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Wang, David. “Chinese literature from 1841 to 1937”. In The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Chang, Kang-i Sun & Owen, Stephen (arg.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2:413–564. 2010. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521855594.008.

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HST271

Week 8: Women in China

One part of the reading this week that immediately caught my attention was Mao’s apparent concern with the issues of women in China. This piqued my interest because in my senior year of high school I wrote a research paper on the life of women in the U.S.S.R., with particular attention paid to women living in Soviet Russia. While doing my primary research for this project, I found out how invested Vladimir Lenin was in the rights of women living in Russia. He championed their right to work outside the home and created systems of public childcare so that they could have a family and do the work they loved. Although his plan did not work out, as it ended up creating an unbearable double shift for these mothers, Lenin’s attention to women’s rights remained me of the same attitudes that seem to be present in Mao.

Reading the information available in chapter 2 of the book The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past helped to place Mao’s concerns about women’s rights at the time in context. From what I read, women were treated absolutely terribly in China during this time. The book described their situation as being “feudal”, as there were various rules in place meant to keep women in line. From a young age girls were taught their place in society via foot binding, a practice whose only purpose was to show that a man could ‘afford’ a wife whose feet were essentially useless. Women were expected to marry quite young, serve their husband’s family, and stay quiet and content until their sons married and they could exercise some control over her. Thus, the vicious cycle started anew. In addition to all of this, women were often beaten by their husbands, both when their husbands were angry with them and when they became angry with their husbands. Either option would tend to result in some form of violence towards women. If all of this was not enough, women in China were thought of as being essentially nothing. According to the reading, if a person knocked on the door of a house and the only person inside was a woman, she would say “No one is home”. In my opinion, this perfectly illustrates just how insignificant women were in Chinese culture; if a man was not present in the home (or life) of a woman, then she did not exist.

Works Cited

Summary of Chapter 16

Hershatter, Gail. The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past. Asia Pacific Modern, 8. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

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HST271

Week 7: Exploration Packet 3


One aspect of the basic set that immediately caught my attention this week was the piece of the Tintin comic. When I was much younger (around 7 or 8 years old) I used to read Tintin comics all of the time! I was fascinated by his over the top adventures (I believe he met the abominable snowman at one point) and the quirky cast of characters that accompanied him (including captain Haddock and the detective twins Thompson and Thompson). However, I never realized that Herge included current events in his comics. It was a bit surreal to reread the section of the Tintin comic that Dr. D’Haeseleer posted with fresh eyes, aware of the context and deeper meaning behind what Herge was portraying. Although this information is not exactly deep or scholarly, I still got quite a bit of enjoyment out of reading something from my childhood!

For the packet reading this week, I focused on the information in packet 3, which covered the city of Shanghai during and a bit after the time period we are focused on now. Something that stood out to me was from the book “The End of Old Shanghai”, specifically chapter 6. In this chapter, the author touches on the remodeling of Shanghai that Chiang Kai Shek ordered take place. His vision for the city was one that incorporated both the tradition of ancient China with the newness and perceived legitimacy of the West. Thus, he obtained Dayu Doon, an architect who was proficient in “Chinese Renaissance” style and specialized in combing American and Chinese influences into his work. What interested me most about this portion of the reading was the cultural blending that Chiang Kai Shek wished to have in his ‘modern’ version of Shanghai. Before his reforms, Shanghai was considered to be quite a modern city. However, people would complain that Shanghai was not Chinese anymore and that only the walled portion of the city showed its true features. This reminded me of our ongoing look at modernity and how there can be such a thing as too much ‘modernness’. After all, although Shanghai was technologically impressive, it had lost almost all of its cultural identity, since Shanghai was not defined by the modern or cutting edge. Rather, it was steeped in the rich tradition of the past and the vast cultural footprint of China. Therefore, Shek’s wish to restore that element of Shanghai while also retaining its modern reputation was (although daunting) quite admirable

Works Cited

Hergé. Tintin: The Blue Lotus

Carter, James. Champions Day : The End of Old Shanghai. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2020. 

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HST271

Show and Tell Project 2: My Life in China and America

The first thing that stood out to me in the reading for My Life in China and America was the connection between Wing Yung’s experiences and the racism that Chinese Americans experienced during this time. At the beginning of the read that Dr. D’Haeseleer assigned, Yung recounts a few of his experiences in the United States, with one specific story challenging racist ideas that people had about the Chinese during this time. After Yung politely confronted a Scottish immigrant about his behavior, the Scotsman proceeded to punch Yung in the face. Yung, stunned and upset, retaliated by punching the man even harder in the same spot, which resulted in the Scotsman grabbing Yung’s hands. At this point, a manager stepped in and asked what was happening, to which Yung responded that “…I was only defending myself. Your friend insulted me and added injury to insult. I took him for a gentlemen, but he has proved himself a blackguard” 1. Because of this comment and the sore beating that he took, the Scotsman ended up not showing his face in public for a week. Yung described this as being due to him “being whipped by a little Chinaman in a public manner”2. The incident ended up causing quite the sensation among the Chinese people living there because “no Chinese within its jurisdiction had ever been known to have the courage and pluck to defend his rights…when they had been violated or trampled upon by a foreigner”3. It also caused Yung to earn the respect of those in his community for his unwillingness to be disrespected by those around him. Yung hoped that his acts would inspire his fellow countrymen to defend themselves in the future and that “the people of China will be so educated and enlightened as to know what their rights are, public and private, and to have the moral courage to assert and defend them whenever they are invaded”4. From what I learned in the documentary, his hopes perfectly described the actions and reactions of the Chinese Americans to the discrimination that they faced during the time of the exclusion acts. From suing the United States government for their right to be recognized as citizens to demanding justice when numerous Chinese people were horrifically lynched, the Chinese Americans truly carried out Yung’s call to know and defend their basic human rights, even in the face of unspeakable odds.

The second piece of the reading that caught my attention was Yung’s journey through Taiping country, as he called it. When Yung was traveling through China, he decided to make a trip through the area taken over by the Taiping rebels. While there, he ended up meeting with Kan Wong, Hong Xiuquan’s nephew. The two had a very cordial meeting and Yung was able to suggest some reforms and improvements to the Taiping governmental system. These included establishing a military based on scientific principles, organizing a civil government, and creating a banking system with a system of currency. Wong expressed his interest in Yung’s proposals but explained that the was unable to implement them because he could not acquire the proper backing. The Taiping system of government was democratic, so any important decisions “required the consent of the majority to any measure before it could be carried out”5.

I found this democratic system of government to be surprising and yet another example of modernity within Chinese history. This type of thinking reminded me of Li Zicheng and how he displayed post Enlightenment ideals in his rebellion. Although Hong Xiuquan, or, perhaps, the people around him, were probably more deliberate with his ideology than Li Zicheng, it seems that the Chinese rebellions up to this point have both adhered to ‘modern’ ways of thinking. With this in mind, I found it interesting that Kan Wong would have been unable to get backing for the reforms that Yung suggested. It seems that although there were definitely elements of modern thought present in the Taiping movement, there was also discord and/or an unwillingness to change completely.

The final piece of this reading that caught my attention was Yung’s thoughts on the outcome of the Taiping rebellion. According to Yung, and probably most historians, the fifteen years that were spent fighting the rebellion were all for naught, for “It left no trace of its Christian element behind either in Nanking, where it sojourned for nearly ten years, or in Kwang Si, where it had its birth. In China, neither new political ideas nor political theories or principles were discovered which would have constituted the basal facts of a new form of government. So that neither in the religious nor yet in the political world was mankind in China or out of China benefited by that movement. The only good that resulted from the Taiping Rebellion was that God made use of it as a dynamic power to break up the stagnancy of a great nation and wake up its consciousness for a new national life…”6. Although Yung’s assessment is harsh, the accuracy of his statements still struck me and made me look at current events through a different lens. What seemingly large, momentous events that are occurring will end up being nothing but a blip of history, having no sway on anything domestic or international? Can that even happen anymore, what with the internet and the amount of global connectivity that it allows? I suppose that only time will tell!

Endnotes

  1. Wing Yung, My Life in China and America, (Cer Classics. Hong Kong: Reprinted by China Economic Review Pub, 2007) 42.
  2. Ibid. 43
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid. 65
  6. Ibid. 72

Bibliography

Yung, Wing. My Life in China and America. Cer Classics. Hong Kong: Reprinted by China Economic Review Pub, 2007.

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HST271

Week 6: Packet 2

One part of the reading that really stood out to me this week was the struggle between the collective vs the individual. For thousands of years, China had mainly been influenced by the Confucian model of the collective or the idea that every person was connected by varying degrees. However, Marxist scholars like Mao Zedong and Chen Duxiu stressed the importance of the individual, especially in the western dominated international scene. In their eyes, the only way that China could possibly move forward was by rejecting the old, traditional ways of thinking and embracing more new, modern viewpoints. From what I have learned about Chinese history so far, I can understand why these young revolutionaries would want to reform the old system. After all, the old system, for all that it preached of togetherness, had only ever served to create division in China, as Dr. D’Haeseleer included in her “why does this matter” section. Why not reform this broken way of living and create a new way one, where only modern ideals of individualism and modernity are upheld? However, I struggled to connect these ideas with the reading I did in The Communist Manifesto. From what I read in the marked sections, it seemed like the manifesto was advocating for a more community-oriented environment, rather than the other way around. For instance, on page 53, Marx complains that “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” This sentiment appears to favor the collectivist spirit of Confucianism and reject the individualism that Mao and Chen valued so highly. However, I could have misunderstood the text, as I was only able to read the marked sections.

Another point of interest for me was the short story Diary of a Madman, which follows the tale of a man who is convinced that his village (and society) is made up entirely of cannibals. I found this story interesting and enjoyable, but I was unable to understand its connection to what was happening in China at that time. My best interpretation of it was that Lu Xun was using this story to make a point about the backwards nature of Chinese society at the time. However, this is assuming that the story should be taken at face value and that the muses of the paranoid narrator are reliable. Lu Xun never confirms that the narrator is not actually a madman. Although this does make the story even harder to analyze, I personally quite enjoyed this open-ended style of writing. Even though I cannot say that I fully understand Diary of a Madman, I am at least able to say that I read some good writing!

Works Cited

Chapter 12 Summary

Chapter 13 Summary

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto: The sesquicentennial edition with an introduction by Martin Malia. Signet Classic. Penguin, New York, 1998. (PDF)

Lu Xun, “Diary of a madman”. Translated by William A. Lyell. In Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1990.